Gathers some of the most intimate, personal writing on life and the art of poetry by a crucial figure in late twentieth-century American letters
Celebrated by both the Black Mountain poets in the 1950s and 1960s and the Language poets in the 1970s and 1980s, Larry Eigner’s poems occupy an important place in American poetry and poetics, and his reputation and legacy grow seemingly stronger with each passing year. Letters to Jargon collects all of the known correspondence between Larry Eigner and Jonathan Williams, the influential publisher of Jargon Society Press and himself a poet.
Eigner’s correspondence with Williams began in the early 1950s, as the two were in conversation over the manuscript of On My Eyes, published by Jargon in 1960. Their correspondence continued for many years thereafter, extending into the period when Eigner’s work started to gain recognition from the nascent movement that would become known as “Language” writing.
The letters are quite broad in their range of reference and provide a fuller context for Eigner’s poetry and thinking. Eigner and Williams discuss their own poetic practices, including the source material for specific poems, general writing practices, and small press and little magazine publication. This volume offers considerable insight into their shared literary communities as Eigner reports on his readings in contemporary poetry and poetics, as well as his correspondence and contact with other poets including Charles Olson, Vincent Ferrini, Robert Duncan, Denise Levertov, Robert Grenier, and Barrett Watten.
Also recorded are Eigner’s reactions to current events and explications of his own poems, including the contexts for appropriated lines and distinctions of character spacing. Eigner also shares with Williams details of his home life, his financial difficulties and the daily challenges of his cerebral palsy. Finally, the book features a series of images of the original letters, enabling readers to see Eigner’s specific material-textual practices.
A Note on the Text
Appendix A: Images of Selected Typescripts
Appendix B: List of Correspondence and Additional Prose
Andrew Rippeon is visiting assistant professor of writing at Davidson College.